Even though the Panthers are not in the playoffs, a lot has happened this week. Here are a few quick hits to keep you up to speed.
Panthers Will Select 28th Overall in the Draft
The Panthers, Colts, Saints, and Chargers all lost in the divisional round of the playoffs. Since the Panthers have the best regular season record (12-4) of the bunch they will select after the other eliminated teams. This ties a franchise record for the latest the Panthers have selected in a draft (the Panthers traded up in 2004 to select CB Chris Gamble 28th, following their Superbowl season). This is a great spot to pick up an excellent offensive lineman or possibly a WR or CB. I would love to see Florida State’s Kelvin Benjamin drop that low. Typically excellent guards tend to slip pretty late in the first round and the offensive line will be a big area of need for the Panthers this offseason, particularly so if Pro Bowl left tackle Jordan Gross decides to retire.
Cam Newton is the Franchise
Earlier in the week Dave Gettleman stated in a press conference that Cam Newton proved he is a franchise quarterback in 2013. I could not agree with you more DG (although I believed he was since his rookie season). Cam has all the tools to be an elite quarterback in the NFL and then some. He changed the landscape of the quarterback position. He tended to sail passes high this season, but that is an issue with mechanics (something that can be fixed with practice and time). Give it a few years and Cam Newton will be the head honcho in the NFL. He is just beginning to scratch the surface of a future hall of fame career. Yeah it may be too early to say that, but he has shattered just about every quarterback record imaginable in his first 3 seasons. Oh and he figured out how to win in the NFL. Opposing defensive coordinators are already losing sleep in 2014 thanks to Cam Newton.
Ron Rivera Wins PFWA Coach of the Year Award
The Professional Football Writers of America selected Ron Rivera as the 2013 coach of the year. After a 1-3 start, Riverboat coached the Panthers to an 11-1 finish on the regular season (the best record in the NFL during that span). His players have the utmost respect for him and he has instilled a team first atmosphere in the locker room that makes the Panthers one of the strongest units in the NFL.
Ron Rivera should win the NFL’s Coach ofthe Year Award. No one gave the Panthers a chance this season and how did they respond? With an NFC South Championship and the number 2 seed overall in the highly competitive NFC. Sure Andy Reid and Bill Belichick deserve consideration (Bill does every season), but Ron Rivera has shaped this team into a contender that commands respect in the NFL. The Panthers will be the first team in the NFC South to repeat as champions (no team has accomplished that feat since the division’s inception prior to the 2002 season). You heard it hear first folks.
J.J. Jansen to the Pro Bowl
J.J. Jansen has been one of the most consistent Panthers in his last 5 seasons with the team. Long snappers are undervalued in the league, but when you have a guy like J.J. who can deliver a perfect snap every single time, it is a huge boost for your special teams unit. J.J. deserves this honor and is probably one of the best if not the best long snappers in the game today. He likes to tell kids at his camps the easiest way to get into the NFL is to be a long snapper (most coaches do not teach the position in the earlier stages of football). J.J.’s addition gives the Panthers six Pro Bowlers on the season. Depending on the outcome of Sunday’s NFC Championship, the Panthers could have even more (looking at you Thomas Davis).